Staring At The Sun with Jade Wells
Words by James Budd
If you want a job done properly, sometimes it’s best to do it yourself; this has been the case for LA’s Kevin Lipman, AKA Jade Wells. Coming to the realisation that a platform deemed suitable for his art didn’t exist, he’s gone and created his own. Staring At The Sun is Lipman’s project, and in his own words, “is an independent label that fosters eclecticism, and will remain an output for both my own productions and those of like-minded artists.”
We spoke shortly after his return from a full moon party in the desert near his home. The Moontribe parties have been an integral part of Southern California’s rave scene since the early 90s, with techno, trance and DnB being firm favourites of the West Coast crowd. Aside from his regular trips to Moontribe and his inevitable visits to Burning Man, many of Kevin’s influences come from the UK, “Skull Disco, Livity Sound, Burial, Four Tet, Horsepower Productions, Om Unit, Pearson Sound/Ramadanman, Hodge, Joy Orbison, Peverelist, LTJ Bukem, Midland…”
This has always been evident in his music. Under his Jade Wells moniker, I’ve heard him produce dubstep, garage, jazz and soul cut and spliced in an 8-bar grime fashion. He’s even dabbled with the amens – and well, I might add – which always deserves a mention. I’ve played his music out on plenty of occasions, and when its shoulders have rubbed with those of established names, it’s held its own. Upon learning of the lengths he’d gone to in order to release his debut EP, ‘Staring At The Sun’, I had to hear it. I asked for WAV copies of the tracks and some good quality images to use, he sends an entire press pack and ships a record across the ocean for me. That’s professionalism from the get-go.
A week or so later and I’m sat with one of the first copies of SATS001, practically fresh off the press. It’s wax-stamped, numbered, there are stickers and download codes. It’s a weighty 180g press and the artwork – courtesy of Karen Chang – looks tribal and slick. As we chat, he’s buzzing with enthusiasm, organising premieres with websites in the UK and France, getting the word out the retailers and creating a general buzz. “SATS represents a reflection of five years of personal and musical experimentation, and serves as a platform for further exploration,” he states. His first release is the culmination of years of hard work, experience, realisation and education, but it is also the start of another chapter.
Time to cut to the chase and come with the music. The opening track, ‘Staring At The Sun’, begins with a heavenly kalimba melody that’s reminiscent of Bonobo, circa ‘Black Sands’ era. The harp-like plucking intertwines with shuffling, stepping, meandering drum combinations; dream state material. Rising chords provide a leading accompaniment, lifting the listener off their feet and into the clouds. All the while, the dubby delays and echoes come in and out of play, that bassline sounding almost like the Joy Orbison of early years. Something inside me is screaming ‘Night Slugs’ for some reason too, but I can’t work out why. Filtering the sounds in and out towards of the track bring you down and out, like a click of the fingers in a hypnotist’s chair. It’s a good start.
‘Full Circle’ takes the audience much deeper into the rabbit hole. Again with the mesmerising tones, with this effort it’s all about the tribal drums and those enveloping chords. At almost eight minutes it’s a lengthy piece of music, and though minimal in elements, it’s a DMT trip of a tune. Imagine Phaeleh combining his post-dubstep, future garage sound with the trip-hop genius of Orbital or The Orb and you’re nearly there. With a crescendo of enlightening proportions, if this isn’t played at every sunrise set possible this summer, it’s a travesty.
Drawing the EP to a close, we are left with ‘Austah’. Having never been to Burning Man, Moontribe, or any other desert rave in the USA, I can only hazard a guess as to what they would listen to. If I had to take a stab in the dark, this would be the sum of my estimations. Leading with those beautifully organic and natural tribal drums yet again, they provide a meditative rhythm for the rest of the track to build itself around. There’s a heavy trance influence, a throwback to the sounds of early ambient also. Kevin plays around with what he calls, “interlocking chords and hazy atmospheres.” I couldn’t put it better. As the various elements are brought in and out of earshot, the drums remain the only constant, a melodic metronome for the listener to reassure them that they haven’t wandered too far from the track.
‘Staring At The Sun’ manages to retain constant themes without becoming tedious. Each track is most certainly its own separate entity, but they combine to make a record that flows like the Amazon. It was born in the deserts of California, but it’s home could quite easily be the streets of the UK. Drawing upon his obvious influences from the festival scene across the pond, Jade Wells manages to infuse them with trip-hop, dubstep, and whatever else he chooses, “from Nigerian afrobeat to Bristolian dubtechno, with an emphasis on texture, space, and rhythm.”
What’s next for Jade Wells and Staring At The Sun? According to Lipman, the music for the second release is almost complete:
“I hope to have 002 in the works this summer, with 003 possibly following before 2017 is over. There are talks of some possibly parties in the coming months, but nothing’s been announced and things are under wraps until further notice.”
And there we have it. ‘Staring At The Sun’, testament to what you can achieve with the right mindset, a good support group, and some quality influences from across the Atlantic. We’ll be keeping an eye out for 002 and 003!